October 25, 2014

Forum to target local drug use

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By Matt Sutkoski

Observer correspondent

November 7th, 2013

To the uninitiated, the term “bath salts” conjures up a relaxing evening soaking in the tub and “Molly” might be the name of a pleasant woman, but the two items are part of a constellation of commonly abused drugs in Williston, Chittenden County, Vermont and the nation as a whole.

Members of the Williston Community Justice Center want to give parents, youth and everybody else some tools to help cope with drug abuse and to prevent or combat the problem. So, the organization is holding two informational meetings on the topic. The first is scheduled at 7 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Williston Central School.

Mitch Barron, executive director of Centerpoint in South Burlington and Tim Trevithick, the student assistance program counselor at Champlain Valley Union High School, will facilitate the Nov. 12 forum.

Bath salts and Molly, two drugs that have been in the media spotlight lately, will surely come up as a topic at the forum, but the two illicit substances certainly aren’t the only threats, Trevithick said.

“The most dangerous drug is the drug you’re using now,” he said.

The type of drugs that are abused cycle in and out of popularity, Trevithick said. As a crackdown makes one drug more scarce and expensive, another, cheaper one comes in to replace it. Currently, he said, heroin has become an inexpensive alternative to those who are having more trouble finding prescription pills. Those pills have become somewhat rarer on the street due to regulatory and police crackdowns.

Drug abuse has long been a troubling fact of life in schools and communities, but Trevithick said he thinks pressure on youths has increased, possibly making the allure of drugs more tantalizing.

Often, youth turn to drugs as a way to blunt the sharp edges of anxiety, social pressure or other troubles, and to avoid dealing with these issues. “It’s a coping mechanism. They don’t feel good. Somebody introduces the drug and it feels good,” Trevithick said.

Similarly, their parents, often paralyzed by the fearful suspicion their kids are abusing drugs, don’t seek out the help their children, and their families need, Trevithick said.

Or, youth want to experiment, but pick the wrong way to do it, said Steve LaTulippe, director of the Williston Community Justice Center. “The fact is, people want to experiment with something new,” LaTulippe said.

But then, the people experimenting with the drugs don’t realize how addictive they can be, and soon they’re hooked.

“There’s huge social pressure to do some of this stuff. That’s why we’re so eager to have kids join the discussion,” LaTulippe said. “Kids need to figure out how to get access to the people who can help them.”

Trevithick said he sees people begin abusing drugs at younger ages than in previous generations, with problems sometimes starting among sixth and seventh graders.

On the bright side, overall drug abuse has declined somewhat in Chittenden County, and Trevithick said he wants to see the trend continue.

The Nov. 12 discussion will cover topics such as the common names for drugs and where they come from. Molly, for instance, is a colloquial term for ecstasy or MDMA, a type of drug that users say gives them a feeling of euphoria, or hallucinations, but can cause permanent cognitive problems. Bath salts are an anything-but-benign class of chemicals that can make users have violent hallucinations or cause strange behavior.

The New England Poison Control Center reported 18 bath salt overdoses in Vermont in the first half of 2012, before an emergency law went into effect banning the drug’s ingredients in Vermont.

Reports of poisonings from bath salts fell sharply after the ban went into effect, according to the poison control center.

Still, a Clarendon man died in 2012 from a bath salts overdose and a man police said was under the influence of bath salts died in a crash, along with his girlfriend and eight-month old baby, in a 2012 Interstate 89 crash in Bolton.

“These synthetic drugs are more potent than most people realize,” LaTulippe said.

There will also be information on how to tell whether a child, friend or your neighbor might be using an illegal substance.

LaTulippe said the forum will be less a PowerPoint-type presentation and more of a dialogue between experts and members of the community. “This is a discussion that needs to be had in all communities,” he said.

The second community drug forum will be scheduled some time in January. For more information call the Williston Community Justice Center at 764-1151.

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